Pushing Daisies

I’m pulling hard for “Pushing Daisies” even though I know in my heart it’s far too good for network television. How pumped am I for this show? Put it this way, I’m a lifetime member of Red Sox Nation and I watched tonight’s premiere while the Sox were playing Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels. That’s right I don’t have a Tivo or DVR — oh, the shame — and yes, I did check the score during the commercials.

Back to “Daisies.” It’s everything I’d hoped it would be. Clever, wry, whimsical, twisted and fun. If you were lucky enough to catch a few episodes of “Wonderfalls” on Fox a few years back, then you know the kind of skewed magic creator Bryan Fuller is capable of. Fox quickly pulled the plug on “Wonderfalls” — intelligence scares that network senseless — but Fuller has arrived at ABC with an even better mouse trap.

“Pushing Daisies” flows from the Tim Burton school of storytelling. It’s like “Beetlejuice” crossed with “Edward Scissorhands” by way of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Ned, played by Lee Pace, is the central character. He can bring things — people, pets, fruits — back from the dead with a touch of his finger. One problem — if he touches them again they die. This is great news for a profit driven detective who picks up reward money for solving puzzling murders — not so great news for the love of Ned’s life who gets a second chance at living, but can never touch her quirky knight in shining armor.

I know, that’s a whole lot of plot for a pilot episode, and boy did it fly by. Anna Friel, as Chuck — Ned’s love interest — is as ripe and tasty as the pies that Ned whips up in his restaurant. It’s called the Pie Hole by the way — and yeah, it’s shaped like a pie. Yummy. Up until her unfortunate demise, and sudden rescue, she’d been living with her crazy, but lovable aunts. Now she’s got a new beginning, sure with strings attached, but she’s no shrinking violet. She’s up for some payback too.

Chi McBride gets to play the cynical detective, and it’s so much fun watching him play a character who’s not nice or noble. He even gets to call Ned a “bitch” in episode one. Throw in a little toothpick chewing and you can tell the guy is having the time of his life.

Of course none of this works unless you care about Ned, and here’s where Lee Pace shows his acting chops. His longing and passion has to be internalized, he’s afraid of the physical contact that’s led to so much confusion in his life. It’s all about the glance, or the catch in the voice. He handles it all beautifully.

Throw in the fact that you’ve got Kristin Chenoweth playing, well, Kristin Chenoweth — Swoosie Kurtz as an eye patch wearing aunt — an eye popping (sorry Swoosie) visual style — and whip smart writing. Like I said earlier, it’s all way too good for network television.

So, in my heart of hearts I know “Pushing Daisies” is probably doomed, but I’m not going to let that deter me. Might this have worked out better as a feature film instead of a television series? Possibly. Can Fuller keep his story fresh and inventive over the long haul? Difficult, but possible. Should we all lobby our friends to jump on the bandwagon while there is a bandwagon? Hello!

Take if from a Red Sox fan, don’t let a good thing slip through your fingers.


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